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1. Roman Houses - Quotations

We can learn about the standard of Roman houses from Juvenal's 'Satires'.

  • "It is a common fault: here we all live in a poverty which is pretentious."
  •  "We live in a city that is mostly supported by thin props"
  • "[the house agent] covers the gape of an old crack, he tells the inhabitants to sleep soundly – when the building is on the point of crashing down."
  • "man protected from the rain by nothing but tiles"
  • "buy outright an excellent house in Sora or Fabrateria or Frusino for the same price as you now pay to rent your dark little room for a year" 
  • "you’d have a little garden and a shallow well which needs no rope, and you can easily water your feeble plants"
  • "Many an invalid in Rome dies through lack of sleep"
  • "What hired lodgings make sleep possible? You need to be rich to sleep in Rome"
  •  "Struggle up the high path of the Suburan slope, over the dirty stones and the steps that are never dry"
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1. Roman Houses - Images


Cubiculum (bedroom) from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale - Roman, Republican, ca. 50–40 B.C.

Would contain bed, chair, storage, maybe a lamp, and would be situted just off the atrium; the murals display wealth.

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2. Roman Clothing (men)


Tunic - knee-length, worn by all Roman men and boys, even slaves 

Togafine white or cream wooldraped over the tunic and held over the left arm, leaving the right arm free – very cumbersome, needed help to drape- difficult to move in. 

He was an upper class citizen. Most upper class male citizens possessed a toga although many hardly ever wore it. It was the formal work wear of lawyers and politicians and also worn to important banquets.

Very important men such as senators wore a toga with a broad purple stripe.

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2. Roman Clothing (women)

She is wearing a stola, similar to the tunic worn by men, but longer and with sleeves. It was usually made of wool, often brightly coloured, and was the standard dress of a married lady. On top of the stola she is wearing a palla (cloak) which could be pulled up over the head.  

The fact that she is wearing a palla pulled up over her head suggests that she is represented as being outside the home. She would normally be attended by a slave.

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3. Roman Families

"Paterfamilia" - "father of the family." (head of family was the oldest living male)

The 'paterfamilias' looked after the families business affairs and property, as well as performing religious activites on their behalf. He also had rights over the slaves.

He also had the right to disown, sell into slavery, or kill his children.

Sons could not possess their own property until their father's died, and so recieved allowance (peliculum) until then to manage their households.

Pliny the Younger, was adopted by his childless uncle Pliny the Elder.

Women (or girls, really) married in their late teens/early twenties to men usually in their thirties. This is because men had to be 'established' before considering marriage. This was mostly the case up until about the 20th century.

'Materfamilia' - "mother of the family" had to organise slaves, purchase food, arrange the children of house's education, and the generally supporting her husband. She would also have to uphold her husband's image by organising "cena" a formal banquet.


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4. Water Supply

De Aquaeductu Urbis Rome:

  • "There are now, however, nine aqueducts from which water converges into Rome."
  • "These grand structures, so numerous and indispensable, carrying so many waters, who indeed would compare the idle Pyramids"
  • "a reservoir should be built and, joined to the reservoir to receive the water, a triple storage tank, and in the reservoir should be placed three pipes of the same size, leading to the adjacent tanks, so that, when the water overflows at the extremities, it is discharged into the middle tank."
  • "middle one are put the pipes leading into all pools and fountains, in the second one are the pipes for the baths, [...], in the third one are the pipes for private houses"
  • "those who draw water privately to their homes should pay for the upkeep of the aqueducts through paying taxes to the tax-collectors."
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4. Water Supply

Supplying Fresh Water to Roman Cities:

  • "determines whether the growing village becomes a thriving city or a backward and disease - ridden community."
  • "The Romans solved these problems by calling on their civil engineers to plan and build a centralized water distribution network and sewage system for every major town or city in the Republic"
  • "to reliably provide a continuous supply of fresh, clean water in order for these cities to survive." 
  •  "an efficient sewer system had to be able to carry away wastewater from homes and buildings, as well as provide drainage"
  • "system of aqueducts with a constant gradient and a system of cisterns and manifolds to hold and distribute the water."
  • "carefully planning the gradient and building the aqueduct, they could expect a certain rate of flow of water from the source to the town. A well-engineered system even took into account that there might be less water available from a spring during the summer months."
  • "Pipes made of sheet lead or terra cotta. The lead pipes were usually round or triangular in cross section and formed from a rectangular sheet of lead."
  • "the curator aquarum or city official was in charge of the water supply had seven hundred trained slaves in addition to several civil engineers" 
  • "water was delivered to private homes via the city's water mains and metered with officially calibrated nozzles which were given an official stamp. Water usage into private homes was taxed"
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4. Water Supply - Images


A diagram of a Roman sewer system, and a diagram of the Roman Aqueducts.

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5. Roman Food

Columella: extracts on Agriculture and Martial: Epigrams on Food and Dining

  • The press-rooms (olives pressed) particularly and the oil rooms (amphorae of oil stored) should be warm, because every liquid is made thin by heat and thickens when it is very cold. 
  • There should be the following things around the villa: an oven and mill, and at least two ponds.
  • the threshing-floor (where the grain is separated from the husks and stalks)   should be built so that either the owner or at least the manager can look down on it.
  • The orchards too and the gardens should be fenced round and be nearby, and be in a place to which all sewage from barnyard and baths and the lees pressed from olives can flow.
  •  "no shortage of cheap Cappadocian lettuce and smelly leeks, and tuna will lie hidden in egg-halves." (starter)
  •  "A green cabbage [...] will be set before you on a black plate, along with a sausage lying on white boiled wheat, and pale beans with red bacon." (main course)
  • "withered grapes will be offered to you, and pears which bear the name Syrian, and chestnuts grown in learned Naples and roasted in a slow fire." (dessert)
  • " You will make the wine good by drinking it" (beverage)
  • "to your relief will come noble olives, recently borne by boughs in Picenum, and hot chickpeas." (snack)
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5. Roman Food (+ Images)

Horace: Satires on Town and Country

  • "begrudged his guest neither the chick-peas he had stored up nor the long oats"
  •  "he brought a dried grape and half-eaten scraps of bacon"
  •  "Meanwhile, the master of the house himself [...] ate grain and weeds, leaving the better bits of the feast."


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6. Slaves

Columella: Extracts on Agriculture

  • "This lazy and sleepy type of slave is used to idleness, [...] and he is forever dreaming of frivolous pleasures"
  • "You must choose a man hardened to farm-work from childhood and proved by experience"
  • "a woman should be given to him [the foreman] to live with, both to keep him settled and in certain things to help him"
  • "They should be carefully protected from the wind, cold and rain, all of which are kept off by skins with long sleeves, or by patchwork or by hooded cloaks."
  • "He should not be skilled only in farm-work, but should also be equipped with mental qualities, as far as his slave’s nature allows, so that he gives orders neither casually nor brutally"
  • "checking up on the slaves in the prison and finding out whether they are properly chained, whether the places of custody are safe enough and properly guarded"
  •  "The careful owner tests the quality of his slaves’ bread and drink by tasting it, and he checks their clothing, their mittens and their foot coverings."
  • "I compensate those who have a just grievance, as I punish those who stir the household to revolt or slander"
  • "I reward those who show energy and industry"
  • "women who are more fertile, who should be rewarded for producing a specific number of children [...] A woman who had three sons got exemption from work"
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6. Slaves

  • "even set free fertile female slaves after they have borne children"
  •  "For those who do hard labour, 4 measures of wheat in winter, 4½ in the summer… For slaves working in chains, 4 pounds of bread in the winter, 5 pounds when they begin to dig the vineyard and back to 4 when the figs appear."
  • "Provide a tunic weighing 3½ pounds and a cloak every other year. [...] You ought to give the slaves sturdy wooden clogs every other year."
  • "flog those who had been remiss in preparing or serving it. Those who were thought to have committed an offence worthy of death he had judged by the whole body of slaves, and executed if convicted.
  • "‘Why is this curl so high?’ the mistress screams, and immediately Psecas is given a whipping for this crime"
  • "certain slave-owners were abandoning their sick and worn-out slaves"
  • "all slaves so abandoned, if they recovered, would be free and would not revert to the ownership of their masters"
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7. Other Occupations

Cicero on Occupations

  • "occupations [...] that arouse people’s hatred, such as those of tax collectors and money-lenders."
  • "occupations of all hired workers, who are paid for their manual labour, not for their skill, are base and unfit for a free man"
  • "those who buy goods from merchants to sell on [...] make no profit unless they told lies."
  • "All craftsmen are involved in base trade, for a workshop can have nothing worthy of a free man about it."
  • Trades which provide for bodily pleasures are least acceptable: Fishmongers, butchers, cooks, poulterers, fishermen , and perfume sellers, dancers and the whole dice game.
  • "medicine, or architecture, or teaching respectable subjects – these occupations are fit for those who have the right social rank."
  • " [Trading] on a large scale and brings in plenty of money, and imports large quantities of goods from all over the world"
  • "nothing is better than agriculture, nothing more productive, nothing more delightful, nothing more fitting for a free man." 
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8. The Roman Army

From an exemplar answer regarding soldiers at Hadrian's Wall

  • "jumping over ditches- will help us cross high obstacles in battle. We also had running practice [...] walking exercise- 23 miles in 23 hours completely in line without stopping. Starting swimming lessons next week."   
  • "spears we are using in training are much heavier than those we use in combat, in order to strengthen our arms and make spears during wartime seem light in comparison."
  • "we have been using missiles and bows and arrows while wearing armour.  Later on this month, we are going to be mounting and dismounting horses from the left and the right."
  • "we will become skilled as cavalry and that we will have to be able to mount the horses whilst carrying weapons by the end of our training"
  • we will go on an expedition, to teach us how to set up a camp.  It will need to have everything we could ever need in it: Vegetius, who wrote our training manual, claims every time we set up camp it should be like an armed town."
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8. The Roman Army - Images


These images show the hierachy of positions in the army as well as a modern recreation of how the army looked and the tactics they used to fight.

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8. The Roman Army

Extracts from the writings of Vegetius

  • "Roman people have subdued the world by no other means than training in arms, camp discipline and military experience"
  • "it was to our advantage to select a resourceful recruit, teach him the law of arms, so to speak, strengthen him by daily training, to accustom him, by means of practice on the training ground, to everything that can happen in the battle line and in engagements, and inflict severe punishments on slackers."
  • "Again, in the field of human conflict a small number of trained men is more likely to win."
  • "recruits must be taught the military step [...] an army with broken lines or lacking formation always faces the most serious danger from the enemy. The pace must be 20 miles at military step in five hours, at least in the summer."
  • "younger recruits must be accustomed above all to running, so that they can charge the enemy with greater momentum, and quickly seize advantageous positions."
  • "The recruit must be trained for jumping, by which ditches are jumped over or some high obstacle can be overcome"
  • "Every recruit alike must learn how to swim in the summer months. For it is not always possible to cross rivers by a bridge: an army is often forced to swim both when retreating and when in pursuit."
  • "The recruit who trains with a dummy at the stake is also made to throw spears, of greater weight than the real weapons will be, at that stake as though at an opponent."
  • "An ability to jump on and off horses is always strictly required not only of legionary recruits but also from mercenaries"
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8. The Roman Army

Extracts from the writings of Vegetius

  • "So much attention was paid to this that they learned both to mount and to dismount not only from the right but also from the left, even while holding swords or lances unsheathed."
  • "Younger recruits are very often forced to carry a weight of up to sixty pounds and march at military pace, and in these tough exercises they have to carry weapons and provisions." 
  • "The recruit also needs to learn how to build a camp. No greater source of security and nothing more essential is found in war than this."
  • "soldiers can spend nights and days inside the wall [of the camp] without worries, even if the enemy is besieging them"
  • "They were forced to aim missiles also or lead-weighted balls non-stop in a continuous exercise"
  • "during bad weather or strong winds the army did weapons training under cover. On the other days of winter, whenever there was a break in snow and rain, they were forced to practise on the training ground, lest a break in the habit should weaken the soldiers’ bodies and minds." 
  • "It is appropriate for them frequently to chop wood, carry loads, jump over ditches, swim in the sea or in rivers, walk at full step or run, even under arms, with their loads"
  • "a well-trained soldier looks forward to war, so he fears it if he is untaught. Finally, one must realise that in battle experience is more useful than strength."   
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8. The Roman Army

The Vindola Tablets were the Roman Equivalent modern day postcards. Roman's used these finely sliced pieces of wood to write to their relatives back home:

  • Masculus(clearly an officer)  to Cerialis his king, greetings. Please, my lord, give instructions on what you want us to do tomorrow. Are we all to return with the standard or just half of us?... (missing lines) ...most fortunate and be well-disposed towards me. My fellow soldiers have no beer. Please order some to be sent.
  • The following extract is from a soldier or civilian who seems to have been involved in a lot of dodgy dealings, speculating in wholesale grain supplies: Octavius to his brother, CandidusUnless you send me some cash, at least 500 denarii, the result will be that I shall lose what I have laid out as a deposit, about 300 denarii, and I shall be embarrassed. So, I ask you; send me some cash as soon as possible.
  • This is a birthday invitation from the commander’s wifeClaudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings. On the third day before the Ides of September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival, if you are present(?). Give my greetings to your Cerialis. My Aelius and my little son send him(?) their greetings. I shall expect you sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.
  • Some lucky soldiers could expect clothes parcels from their family in Italy: I have sent(?) you...pairs of socks from Sattua, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants...Greet...Elpis...Tetricus and all your messmates with whom I pray that you live in the greatest good fortune.
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8. The Roman Army

  • Originally only male land owners could be accepted [into the army] but this was opened up to all citizens of Rome later and they had to be over the around of 20
  • Many soldiers often came from outside Rome: from places such as Africa, Gaul, Germany, the Balkans, Spain and the Middle East.
  • Soldiers often had to complete 25 years of service before they could retire, and when they did retire they often did so with other soldiers
  • Their years of service would make them eligible for a pension or a plot of land on which they could farm.
  • Rich generals would have spears, swords, armour, helmets and would often travel on horseback while poorer soldiers would have a single sword and no armour and would have to travel on foot.
  • The main tactic used by the Roman Army was a phalanx formation. This involved a rectangular mass of soldiers with spears sticking out at the front of the mass to kill incoming foot soldiers or cavalry
  • This formation seemed ingenious it did have its flaws as exploited by Hannibal when he fought against the Romans.
  • The Roman Legions were not generally named, but numbered all the way up to the 30th legion.
  • The only Army that had an astonishing victory against the Romans was the Carthaginian Army led by Hannibal.
  • The standard of the 9th legion was one of the few that were lost and never recaptured after the massacre of the 9th legion. This defeat was considered so bad by the Romans Hadrian’s wall was built.
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